Dramatic Irony In Hamlet Act 1 And 2
I need some examples of dramatic irony in Act 1 and Act 2 of Hamlet.
Who are the characters involved in the irony? Is it sympathy or antipathy?
Here are some further examples of dramatic irony in Acts 1 and 2:
- Hamlet's father's ghost appears to the castle guards, then Horatio, and then Hamlet himself. He tells Hamlet that Hamlet's uncle, Claudius, murdered him in his orchard by pouring poison into his ear canal. No one else besides the guards, Horatio, and Hamlet are aware of this ghostly visitation.
- Polonius tells Ophelia not to see Hamlet anymore. He thinks that Hamlet isn't really in love with her and is only trying to sleep with her. He doesn't believe that Hamlet could marry her even if he wanted to, and he warns her not to allow him access to her nor to accept gifts from him. Hamlet doesn't realize this conversation has taken place.
- Polonius sends Reynaldo to spy on Laertes. He orders Reynaldo to find out Laertes's reputation by spreading small, relatively minor rumors about him to see if he can get anyone to corroborate, thereby giving away information about the young man's behavior. Laertes obviously doesn't know that he's being spied on by his father.
- Hamlet acts crazy with Polonius, even insulting the old man, and Polonius doesn't know Hamlet is only acting. Polonius thinks that Hamlet is legitimately crazy, while Hamlet is actually taking every opportunity to make fun of Polonius.
The absolute best example of dramatic irony in the first two acts of Hamlet is that the audience knows of Hamlet's desire to feign lunacy, while the other characters do not know of this. Dramatic irony, of course, is when the reader or audience knows something to be true that one or more of the other characters do not know to be true. In this case, Hamlet has made it expressly clear to us his desires:
As I perchance hereafter shall think meet / To put an antic disposition on. (1.5.171-172)
He has, therefore, told us that Hamlet himself will appear mentally disturbed even though he is most certainly not. Claudius, Polonius, Gertrude, and even Ophelia (not to mention Rozencrantz and Guildenstern) then spend Act 2 trying to spy on Hamlet in order to find out his true disposition. Hamlet and his audience know something significant that the above mentioned characters do not know. Although I have never heard dramatic irony delineated in the way you mention in your footnote, I would suggest that this is done out of antipathy here (as it is certainly not done out of sympathy).
In the final scene of Act I, the Ghost appears to Hamlet and tells him that his uncle, Claudius, murdered Hamlet's father. Because the audience knows this, and no other character other than Hamlet knows it, this dramatic irony creates suspense and conflict.
In Act II, scene 1, Ophelia tells her father that Hamlet came to see her and acted very strangely. The audience knows from the previous scene that Hamlet is pretending to be insane, but Ophelia is unaware. This is another example of dramatic irony.
Sympathy and antipathy are opposite emotions. An audience that feels sympathy for a character likes him or her. When the character elicits feelings of antipathy in the audience, they dislike the character.